When Less Is More

by Fraidy Katz

When I came to pick my baby up from her babysitter a few days ago, she told me that her fourteen month old has a terrible stomach virus and she kept throwing up. The baby wasn’t able to keep down any food and she appeared to be dehydrated. She had all of the signs including chapped skin and crying without tears. The babysitter was just waiting for her husband to return home so that she could go to the hospital. I felt terrible, wished her refuah sheleimah and went home. 

My baby Rivka was especially clingy that afternoon and didn’t have an appetite. That evening,  she threw up and then after bathing her and changing the sheets and blanket in her crib, she threw up again. I became afraid that she might also become dehydrated, so I asked my husband to pick up some Powerade. When she woke up at 4 am, she had developed a fever.  I prepared a big eight ounce bottle of Powerade for her, she drank four ounces of it and then threw it all up. So I tried again, I gave her another four ounces and of course, she threw them up again! 

I was frightened that she might also need to be taken to the hospital. In the morning, my husband researched online and read an interesting thing. Apparently, if a baby is vomiting and you are trying to get her to hold liquids down, the best advice is to give her no more than two spoonfuls at a time. After this, you must wait a few minutes to see if she can hold that amount down before feeding her more. I did this and Baruch HaShem she didn’t throw up! 

I waited anxiously for five minutes and saw that she had kept it down. I coaxed another two spoonfuls into her mouth. I slowly did this over the course of the day and she kept on drinking. Baruch Hashem, it was just a twenty four hour virus and she kept hydrated throughout because of this.

I couldn’t help but think how apropos this concept is to when we are trying to grow in some spiritual area. If we feel very removed from an ideal character trait, for example not speaking loshon hora, we may want to make a tremendous kabbalah like never uttering a word of gossip again. But in the end, we will find this to be too overwhelming and “vomit “ so to speak from our excessive resolution. 

How much wiser would it be to follow Rebbe Nachman’s suggestion when Reb Nosson asked him how one becomes a masmid (diligent in their Torah studies). Rebbe Nachman answered, “A bissel is och gut” (a little is also good). This means that one should learn a little bit here and a little bit there whenever they have an extra minute to spare. If you tell someone to study for seventeen hours a day, it’s too much and they just give up. We should never underestimate the power of small things. Although people tend to look at small things and think that they are worthless, the truth is that they are the secret to spiritual growth. When we appreciate even a little bit, we begin to keep adding a little more and a little more. Soon enough, it becomes cumulative. This what our Rabbi’s teach, “Every penny adds up to a great sum.” 

Rebbe Akiva was forty years old and yet he saw how a drip of water could make a hole in solid stone. He understood the power of this simple idea and became ever so great because of this. So can we!

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